Thurs, Aug 23
GHETTONUNS with DANCE ELECTRIC and SLIM TWIG at the Silver Dollar, Rating NNN
Gangly heartthrob Slim Twig is so young he probably doesn't understand the dangerous waters he navigates by fusing rockabilly with an iBook. Or maybe the 18-year-old knows exactly what he's doing and it's a big middle finger to genre purists who'd sooner drive their 57 Chevy over a laptop than make it the percussive backbone of their band, as Twig does. Whatever his motivation, the guy delivered a disjointed "electro-billy" set with confidence and flair at the Silver Dollar Thursday.
Show stealers Dance Electric stormed the stage next, quickly blasting into their Blood Brothers/Refused screamo pop with enough energy to awaken the audience's docile derrieres. These kids blend hardcore and synth rock at a vigorous pace set by stellar drummer Tori Electric , who expertly apes many of fellow Mississauga native Sebastien Grainger's (ex-DFA1979) moves, right down to his sideways stage set-up.
While headliners Ghettonuns might have fared better if the crowd hadn't thinned to less than 20 by the time they started up, it was still disappointing to note how much of the varied instrumentation on their new CD (Omnipath City Distort) is canned live.
It's hard to feel moved while watching shirtless dudes writhing around rap-slash-yelling over pre-programmed beats to an uninterested group. And why do Montreal art rock dudes always dress like they're homeless? So it's no problem stocking up on expensive keyboards and laptops, but you can't upgrade that stained 20-year-old pair of sweatpants?
Fri, Aug 24
PEE WEE ELLIS at Hugh's Room, Rating: NNNN
Pee Wee Ellis 's two performances at Hugh's Room Friday night - the first with the Jay Douglas band, the second backed by Jason Wilson 's crew - solidified his status as a saxophonist beyond compare. As the backing bands played ska, R&B, soul and reggae with ease, Ellis embellished each selection with dazzling horn solos.
When they united for a Skattalites song from 1965, savvy bandleader and keyboardist Douglas let his horn section create controlled chaos in the form of extended sax and trumpet solos, and honey-throated vocalist Elisa Gold injected radiant soul into the next track. Ellis followed up with a more melancholy number, later congratulating guitarist Dave West for pulling off a stunning solo.
Jamaica-to-Toronto soul sensation Douglas invoked the spirit of 60s-era James Brown when he stepped up to the mic, complete with fiery vocals, fancy footwork and "Good God!" ad libs. Their slinky, 60-bpm version of the timeless JB hit I Feel Good, bolstered by Ellis's performance (the work of a man capable of a hundred different interpretations of the same horn part) inspired crowd participation and a standing ovation. An encore of Bright Side Of The Road, featuring another furious West solo - this time he shredded the strings of a tiny ukulele - brought the night to a close.
Sun, Aug 26
SCORPIONS at Molson Amphitheatre, Rating: NN
It was difficult to tell the actual Scorpions fans from the drifters straggling in from the nearby CNE looking for a nighttime ride on the Ferris wheel that is aging heavy metal band tours.
The guy two rows down, his puffy hair twirling and head banging along with the kick drum beat, was definitely there to get his dose of irony-free 80s metal.
Rudolf Schenker , looking impressively nimble for someone closing in on 60, Klaus Meine , Matthias Jabs and their rhythm section of ringers obliged. But they pulled that annoying hold-back-the-hits trick, force-feeding a captive audience new material and receiving blank stares in return.
Hence, the encore included all three of their majors - Wind Of Change, No One Like You and finally, Rock You Like A Hurricane - to close in Vegas-like perfunctory fashion. As we filed out of the theatre redolent of pot smoke and spilt beer, we felt a bit like we'd been taken for a ride. Then again, that was kind of the point.
CAMERA OBSCURA with LAST TOWN CHORUS at the Phoenix, Rating : NNN
Doing the same thing for over a year, day in and day out, is enough to crush the spirit of any office drone. It's even more gruelling when you're a touring band trying to muster the excitement of your first day on the road while playing the same bloody songs from an album you recorded two years ago.
So you couldn't help but feel for poor Camera Obscura when they announced (with palpable relief) that they were heading back to Scottish soil after wrapping up a never-ending international tour with their umpteenth T.O. show of 06-07. Along with being knackered, frock-sporting Tracyanne Campbell and her bandmates got stuck with a venue too large for their chirpy, chimey tunes.
Hearing Campbell's sweet, sighing lilt and the modest keys-and-trumpet arrangements of CO's cable-knit pop songs echo through the Phoenix was a bit like mounting a fourth-grader's best pencil crayon drawing in a gaudy $350 frame; no matter how pretty the piece, it was dwarfed by its presentation.
The earnest Glaswegians gave it as much as they had, and they fared well with more substantial tunes (like Let's Get Out Of This Country single Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken). It didn't hurt that that the crowd of bespectacled fanatics would likely have applauded just as heartily for a DJ playing Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi from start to finish.